April 16, 2024
Foretellix raises $85M to build and test scenarios for self-driving systems


On their way to building fully-autonomous vehicles, self-driving car makers are facing a tall task: training their AIs to be able to respond reliably to any and all scenarios that a car, truck or bus might encounter as well as, or hopefully better, than a human would. Today, a startup with a platform to help with that challenge is announcing a sizeable round of funding to take those strategies up a gear.

Foretellix, which builds verification and validation solutions test the full range of driver assistance and autonomous systems that are coming out on the market, has closed its Series C at $85 million. The round includes financial investors alongside strategic backers from the automotive and chip industries, a signal of who is already doing business with Foretellix, as well as the longer business trajectory for the startup.

The round is being led by Israeli VC 83North, with Singapore’s Temasek and carmaker Isuzu investing alongside Woven Capital (Toyota’s venture fund), Nvidia, Artofin, and previous backers MoreTech, Nationwide, Volvo Group VC, Jump Capital, Next Gear Ventures, and OurCrowd. Foretellix may ring a bell for readers: the first close of this round was in May of this year (at $43 million).

This brings the total raised by Foretellix to $135 million. It’s not disclosing valuation but co-founder and CEO Ziv Binyamini confirmed to TechCrunch that it is up on its previous figure, but “not crazy.”

The company’s customer list includes some of the very biggest names in the automotive industry. They include Volvo, Daimler, Isuzu, Toyota, “and others that are not public yet,” Binyamini said.

At previous companies including Intel and Cadence Design Systems, Binyamini and his co-founders Gil Amid and Yoav Hollander developed and honed a lot of knowledge around testing and computation as a means to exploring performance and design across a number of variations and permutations and uses, but specifically as it related to chip design. It was about “finding problems before they committed to [manufacturing] silicon,” he said.

The way Binyamini sees it, the scenarios in automotive and autonomous systems are another step along in that trajectory, albeit a much more complex and vital one.

There is some AI at play in how Foretellix executes its work, and its aim is in part about improving AI systems, but in fact the crux of their breakthrough has been in coming up with the algorithms, the computations, that are needed to create the many multitudes of scenarios (expressed in the form of data and images) to help train the systems for what might come up, and to make sure that the systems know how to respond to them (and that they respond at all).

He describes the heart of the solution stack as the ability to “automatically generate scenarios — an unlimited number of scenarios — based on high-level specifications” in the language that is now the industry standard. (He is referring to the the ASAM OpenSCENARIO 2.0 (OSC2.0) standard development, which was developed in part by Foretellix itself to integrate across the very fragmented and proprietary landscape of autonomous and driver assistance platforms and systems.) “We generate those scenarios to find the edge cases in millions and millions of different situations,” he said. Alongside that there is a substantial big data analytics component, which parses the testing results to give customers deeper insights.

Some of the funding will be going towards continuing to develop the platform — including bringing in more generative AI both to power the platform as well as to interact with it — as well as for business development. There are around 180 employees at the company today, and the plan is to add more.

There is a very obvious market segment in motors for consumers, but equally the company is building solutions for a range of other vehicles, from trucks and buses through to vehicles used in closed-campus situations — for example, in industrial scenarios such as mining — where full autonomy is already in play.

That has also included contributing to other company’s platforms in the arena of simulation testing. Nvidia, for example, has integrated Foretellix’s tools into its Drive SIM driving simulation platform, used to test autonomous systems.

“Isuzu believes that safety verification and validation is essential for OEMs to responsibly develop safe autonomous vehicles,” said Hiroshi Sato, VP of Isuzu’s Engineering Division, in a statement. “Foretellix’s advanced technology in automated scalable scenario generation, and their leadership position in the OpenSCENARIO 2.0 standard, are key assets for Isuzu. Collaborating with Foretellix’s senior management and engineers is a great opportunity, and a major advantage, for Isuzu’s autonomous vehicle development.”



Source link